Powerball winner's emotional reaction

An Iowa grandmother claims half of the $688 million Powerball prize and pledges to start a charity with her earnings.

Posted: Nov 6, 2018 4:10 PM
Updated: Nov 6, 2018 4:13 PM

An Iowa grandmother won half the $687 million Powerball prize and she didn't even know it at first.

Lerynne West, 51, bought her tickets at Casey's General Store in the small town of Redfield, Iowa, while grabbing pizza and coffee with her sister. She said it was a special day because she had bought her first home and was moving in that day.

West thought she put the lottery ticket in her purse, but she accidentally left it on the floor of her sister's truck. It lay there for a couple days.

When a friend texted the day after the drawing to ask if she had won, West said she hadn't had a chance to check. She rifled through her purse and realized she didn't have the ticket. She quickly called her sister, who found it.

West looked at the photo of the ticket her sister sent her and checked the numbers on the lottery's website -- she had won!

"I told my sister to get in her truck and get that ticket and get up here right now! And, drive slow," West said in an Iowa Lottery press release.

West's ticket and a ticket purchased in New York split the $687 million Powerball jackpot in the October 27 drawing. The holder of the New York ticket has not come forward, according to the Iowa Lottery.

West opted to take home $198.1 million in a lump sum, minus what's taken out in taxes. Her other option was a $343.9 million annuity that would be disbursed over 29 years. She is the winner of the largest lottery prize to date in Iowa.

This single mom is going to pay it forward

West was born and raised in Iowa, hailing from Earlham. Her father was a welder and her mother a stay-at-home mom to West and her seven siblings.

She detassled corn and weeded bean fields to help support her family, she said. She earned a GED and she started a family soon after that.

West raised her three daughters as a single mother, working in the insurance industry. She has six grandchildren. She would play the lottery twice a week when she could afford it.

West began a job working as a procurement analyst for Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield in September. After she won the lottery, she retired.

"I know the responsibility that I have to do good with this money, and my life has changed forever," she said in between tears Monday. "I plan to make thoughtful and responsible decisions on giving to my friends, my family and setting up so that my grandchildren will all have a college education."

West is establishing the Callum Foundation, named after her grandson who died after being born in April. "He was born at 24 weeks and he lived for one day," she said.

The organization will give grants in Iowa and beyond, focusing on "poverty and hunger, education, animal welfare, and veteran affairs" according to its website.

While she's going to pay it forward, she's also going to help her family.

The first thing she's going to buy? A new car.

Her Ford Fiesta has 142,000 miles on it and it's seen better days. She said she wants to buy a vehicle that can hold all her grandchildren.

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